ATLANTA — Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) student DeVaughn Davis plans to use his degree to help his fellow man — and man’s best friend.

Growing up in Atlanta, Davis was passionate about dogs and the science of anatomy and physiology. He majored in animal science at The Ohio State University and planned to attend veterinary school before a career development course introduced him to the field of canine rehabilitation therapy.

“It was a field I’d never heard of,” Davis said. “But I was curious to learn more about physical therapy for dogs.”

He learned he could get into canine rehab via physical therapy, especially if he enrolled in a PT program focused on orthopedics, which he found at Georgia State. (The D.P.T. degree is the clinical degree needed to enter the physical therapy profession.)

While home once on spring break, Davis visited an Atlanta facility offering canine rehabilitation to learn more.

“I observed a bulldog walking on an underwater treadmill,” Davis said. “They had put peanut butter on the glass in front of him for motivation to keep walking.”

When the dog finished his workout, he spotted Davis. “He made a beeline from his owners to me,” he said. “I knew that was what I really wanted to do.”

Davis is also working to interest minority students in the field of physical therapy.

While working as a graduate teaching assistant at Georgia State, he taught a first-year GSU 1010 career exploratory course. Many of his students wanted to become nurses, doctors or other health care professionals, so Davis asked some of his contacts — graduate students and alumni working in various health care fields — to speak to them.

“I wanted to give them more insight into future careers,” Davis said. “I also wanted to share things to help plan their college experience.”

As DPT Class of 2022 service chair, he also led a group of Georgia State students in a service project to set up a sports medicine lab at his alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School, and shared information with the high schoolers about pursuing a degree in PT.

Davis is interviewing for acute-care physical therapy jobs and preparing to take the physical therapy licensure examination. While he can’t wait to pursue canine rehabilitation therapy, he will practice human PT first to gain more experience before pursuing animal certification.

“I get to dive into the human side of science and medicine that I love and tie into dogs and animals, which is my true love and passion,” Davis said.

Photo by Carolyn Richardson

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